In a new study, scientists believe that they may have unlocked the ability to teach people to experience synesthesia, the condition in which a person experiences overlaps between their senses. In its most extreme form, those effected by synesthesia report hearing tastes or experiencing sounds as colors.
For their landmark study, researchers conducted a nine-week course in which “volunteers read ebooks with 13 letters consistently written in a specific color. In addition, the volunteers spent 30 minutes every day associating the letters and colors, working on increasingly difficult tasks.”
After five weeks of conditioning, the test subjects began reporting that they saw the key words as colored text even if it was black. According to New Scientist one of the volunteers had this to say:
The color immediately pops into my head. When I look at a sign the whole word appears according to the training colors.
Just a few months later, all of the people involved with the experiment had returned to experiencing words normally but scientists aren’t convinced that it was just a case of memory training. The fact that those involved with the study experienced a temporary 12-point increase in IQ points to greater brain change. Researcher David Bor says:
It’s very rare to report such a large IQ jump so our suspicion is it’s something to do with synaesthesia.
If further studies produce meaningful results, it’s hoped that teaching synesthesia from an early age will increase learning abilities throughout a persons lifetime.